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Rivers shines in opening round of CPKC Women's Open

Brooke Rivers Brooke Rivers - The Canadian Press

It was a great day for Brooke. Just not the Brooke fans were expecting. 

Brooke Rivers, an 18-year-old amateur, carded a one-under 71 to sit in a tie for 13th spot on the leaderboard. 

That other Brooke [Brooke Henderson], the one with 13 LPGA Tour wins, including a CPKC Women’s Open, struggled out of the gate, snap-hooking her opening tee shot into the trees and never found her rhythm the rest of the way. 

She ended up signing for a round of three-over 75.

Rivers jumped out of the starting blocks, making two birdies and an eagle in her first six holes. She traded that for another six-hole stretch where she went four over before adding one more birdie on the par-5 seventh to finish in red figures.

Being low Brooke for the first round was just another pinch-me moment for Rivers this week. Although playing in her national championship for the first time, she appeared as calm as a seasoned veteran when she met with reporters following her round. 

“It's been very exciting,” she stated a few moments after stepping off Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. “It's my first pro event, so going into the week, I was super excited, and I just want to make the weekend.”

Rivers’ route to the Open is an unusual one. She was born in Brampton, Ont., but her family moved to the Turks and Caicos when she was young.

That’s a country with just one 18-hole course. 

She accompanied her parents to that course and later, when she was old enough to play, showed lots of promise. 

She did the same at the Brampton (Ontario) Golf and Country Club, when the family returned to spend its summers in Canada as it has done for most of Rivers’ life.

Over the years, her game has received lots of help from two notables from the Canadian golf community. 

First is her coach, Ralph Bauer, who is currently working with Canadians Mac Hughes and Adam Hadwin. Over his career, he’s helped pretty much every top Canadian golfer as well as numerous PGA Tour pros ranging from Tom Hoge to Lucas Glover. 

He calls Rivers one of the best young talents he’s ever worked with, pointing to her 110 miles-per-hour clubhead speed that makes her exceptionally long off the tee and her silky sort game that rarely fails her. 

“She has such a strong game, in every aspect,” said Bauer. “She’s also mentally very strong and that combination is something you don’t often see in young players.”

So impressed by her skills was the coach that at the end of one lesson, he asked for a pledge that she would become the best player in the world. 

“I’ll try,” she answered. “No, I want you to do it, not try,” Bauer responded with a smile, believing that she can achieve that goal. 

The other helper is Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Stephen Ames, who resides in the Turks. With just a single golf course, Ames and Rivers cross paths often when they are both in the Caribbean nation. 

Ames lends his expertise to Rivers in more of a mentorship role, encouraging her and praising her skills and hard work. 

In addition to those two, Rivers is also in her second year as a member of Golf Canada’s national team and receives all the assistance afforded to members of that team. 

With all this help it’s no wonder that Rivers has posted some impressive results. She finished second at this year’s Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship and made it into the first round of match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Last year, she ended up 10th in the World Amateur Championship.

All this great play caught the eye of Kim Lewellen, the head coach of the Wake Forest women’s golf team. She, like so many other U.S. college coaches, was impressed by Rivers’ game and demeanour and signed her to play for the defending NCAA champion Demon Deacons starting this year. 

“I'm missing my first week of college to be here,” Rivers said. “Worth it, but it's just about golf. It's not about the tournament or who is in it. I'm here to play golf and hit the shots that I want to hit.”

To that end, Rivers has done a lot of preparation ahead of this week. She even went to the extent of hiring Calvin Burke as a caddie. He’s an assistant professional at nearby Marine Drive Golf Club who has lots of local knowledge of the course. 

“Shaughnessy is a tough golf course,” Rivers admitted. “It's really important to hit the shots and not miss it by much. So hitting the fairways and greens and sticking to your plan is very important.”

So far, she’s done a pretty good job of that.